From a judge's ruling upholding a restriction in a California school district that prevents students from wearing an American flag on Cinco de Mayo:
On Cinco de Mayo in 2009, a verbal exchange and altercation arose between a group of predominantly white and a group of Mexican students. This altercation involved an exchange of profanities and threats were made. A makeshift American flag was put on one of the trees on campus. A group of Caucasian students began clapping and chanting "USA" as this flag went up. This was in response to a group of Mexican students walking around with the Mexican flag. One Mexican student shouted "f**k them white boys, f**k them white boys." Vice-Principal Rodriguez directed the minor to stop using such profanity. The minor responded by saying "But Rodriguez, they are racist. They are being racist. F**k them white boys. Let's f**k them up." Vice-Principal Rodriguez removed the minor from the area....
When Plaintiff M.D. wore an American flag shirt to school on Cinco de Mayo 2009, he was approached by a male student who shoved a Mexican flag at him and said something in Spanish expressing anger at Plaintiffs' clothing....
Here, for the reasons discussed above, Defendants have provided a non-discriminatory basis for asking Plaintiffs to remove their American flag attire. Defendants have put forth significant evidence demonstrating that Plaintiffs were asked to change clothes in order to protect their own safety. Plaintiffs have not offered any evidence demonstrating that students wearing the colors of the Mexican flag were targeted for violence. To the contrary, the undisputed evidence shows that Plaintiffs were the only students on campus whose safety was threatened that day, at least to the knowledge of Defendants. In addition, Defendant Rodriguez has testified that he did not see any students wearing the Mexican flag on their clothing during the day. He also testified that he did not see any students with Mexican flags displayed on their person until he saw photos in the newspaper in the days following Cinco de Mayo.
In other words, you can't wear an American flag because someone is liable to come up and hit you. But it's OK to wear the Mexican flag because no one cares enough to attack you.
The decision might well be correct under Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist. (1969), which allows a "heckler's veto" in K-12 school: Schools may indeed restrict student speech when it's likely to cause substantial disruption, even when the disruption stems from other students' hostility to the speech. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I think the speech restriction violates a California statute that gives students extra protection, but that claim wasn't raised in this federal lawsuit.
Yet while the judge might have been right in his decision, the situation in the school seems very bad. When we're at the point that students can't safely display the American flag in an American school, because of a fear that other students will attack them for it - on May 5 or on any other day - and the school feels unable to prevent such attacks (by punishing the threateners and the attackers, and by teaching students tolerance for other students' speech), something is badly wrong.
Eugene is correct. If there is a threat against students for openly displaying their patriotism and exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right of free speech, it is up to the school to step in and protect that speech.
But the school is too terrified of law suits to do what has to be done and does not possess the courage to act responsibly. It is much easier to play the authoritarian and squelch some speech so that other speech can be freely expressed.
Why not ban all flags and attire that features flags? Why allow the Mexican flag to be displayed at all? It's what happens when you have lickspittles running schools who don't want to offend a minority.